Carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive and readily available, both as a battery-operated unit and as a unit that plugs into an electrical outlet in the home. No home should be without this safety protection, and homes with gas-fired equipment (natural gas or LP propane), space heaters, or other sources of risk should be extra cautious. A Los Angeles Electrician at United Plumbing Heating Air & Electric explains that smoke detectors do not protect against carbon monoxide poisoning, carbon monoxide detectors do not warn of smoke or fire.
This is by no means the complete list of errors that can cause dangerous carbon monoxide exposure in buildings, but here are some common foul ups outside of the workplace that can cause dangerous levels of indoor carbon monoxide:
- Space heaters: improper use of gas or kerosene fired heaters can produce high indoor CO levels. Warning: Never go to sleep in an enclosed space with a space heater left operating. In addition to the CO hazards there is a risk of oxygen depletion which can also lead to asphyxiation.
- Gas fired central heating equipment combined with:
- Improper venting, blocked, under-sized, over-sized, missing parts, improperly sloped chimney or flue. A variety of errors can cause a failure to vent combustion gases out of the building, allowing dangerous flue gases to build up indoors.
- Poor combustion air. If a heating appliance is installed in a confined space it must be provided with outside combustion air. A service technician may tune and inspect a gas-fired boiler with the boiler room door open, finding that it seems to operate fine. When s/he closes it on leaving, there may be an inadequate or no opening for combustion air into the room.
- Venting small appliances into cold chimneys: Installation of small, higher efficiency gas-fired equipment into old homes at which the appliance is vented into a large (cold) masonry chimney. In such instances the heater may never develop sufficient heat and draft to actually vent up the chimney.
- Water heaters are often left venting into a too-large; too-cold masonry chimney after a gas-fired boiler is converted to a high-efficiency direct-vent (no chimney) unit.
- Car exhaust, such as to occupants of rooms adjoining or even above a garage where car engines are left running
- Un-vented gas fired water heaters, found venting directly into a basement utility room or even directly into a living area or bedroom.